Sunday, March 02, 2008

Whale jigsaw

I wish the whale policy jigsaw puzzle was as easy to resolve as the one I've reproduced to illustrate this post.

The Japanese Government is organizing another whale policy trade fair tomorrow, to encourage several small countries to join the International Whaling Commission and support the resumption of commercial whaling. According to the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry, the target countries are Angola, Cambodia, Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ghana, Laos, Malawi, Micronesia, Palau, Tanzania and Vanuatu. "Vote consolidation" has been a classic (and expensive) feature of Japanese whaling politics for many years; it's been documented by Leslie Busby in several successive reports.

What's new this time is that it seems Japan is not making the deals behind the scene. Maybe they're giving publicity to their discussion with potential new IWC member states in order to intimidate and influence the intersessional meeting of the IWC that will take place later this week in London. Maybe by acting this way they're saying that time is running out for a settlement of the whaling policy dispute? Or maybe that they don't want a settlement?

At the same time, Yoshimasa Hayashi, probably the most powerful and influencial Japanese politician in the whaling policy debate, said in a statement reported by the Australian Daily Telegraph that: "Japan would seriously consider ending whaling operations in the high seas if they were allowed to extend its coastal whaling programme."

"Ending whaling operations in the high seas" is a code-word for "not returning to Antarctica and respecting the Southern Ocean Whale sanctuary". So [who knows?] maybe we'll manage this week to resolve at least parts of the puzzling whale conservation controversy.

We'll know soon.

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